Women in ICT: Interconnections between people and technology

By on 16 Dec 2016

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Earlier this year, Sofia Silva Berenguer completed her Masters project researching the interconnections of Autonomous Systems.

Using a mix of BGP collectors and Internet Exchange Point (IXP) data, she was able to model and compare how Autonomous Systems interconnect in each of the five RIR regions, and conduct more in-depth analysis of interconnections at a country level in the LACNIC region.

“The research stemmed from my time at LACNIC promoting and training people in developing IXPs,” says Sofia, who was LACNIC’s Senior Security and Stability Engineer before becoming a Masters student.

In the past, Internet interconnections for most developing countries consisted of only an international link. Although most networks have matured to include more diverse and reliable interconnections locally and internationally (resulting in reduced costs and improved responsiveness), Sofia says improvements can still be made at a regional level by investing in more strategic connections.

“From the models I developed, I determined that establishing an IXP in certain countries in Latin America can significantly improve interconnections throughout the region,” she says.

“For instance, having a number of networks peer at an IXP in Venezuela would increase interconnection levels and robustness by more than 60% and 120% respectively at a national level and by 0.3% at a regional level. The latter does not sound significant, but it is when taking into account that this would be the regional effect of only one country out of more than 30 countries in the LAC region.

“Although I haven’t been able to draw any conclusions from the graphs I currently have for the Asia Pacific region it is something I’m interested in doing, possibly with the help of a local collaborator if anyone is interested.”

Sofia hopes this new form of modelling will convince more network operators to join their networks to an IXP, and provide groups who want to establish an IXP evidence of its usefulness and potential return on investment for partners.  The research is currently in peer review and Sofia plans to share the results once the review cycle is complete.

Interconnection

|ɪntəkəˈnɛkʃ(ə)n|

nouna mutual connection between two or more things

Sofia’s life has been an evolving interconnection between people and technology.

A self-professed ‘tech geek’, she credits her programming father for getting her interested in computers, learning from him how to code computer games using a Sinclair computer connected to the family television.

“I really enjoyed it because it was a kind of puzzle. He continued to share other programs and we would work on them together.”

Looking back, Sofia says these basic lessons opened her eyes to the potential of ICT and set her on course towards studying Telematics—a subject in itself that could be considered an interconnection between telecommunications and informatics—in her hometown of Montevideo, Uruguay.

“It’s an interesting subject as it gives you a good understanding of the different aspects of network development,” says Sofia. “Having this overall understanding helps when you start collaborating with various teams in the real world”.

“I started as an intern at IBM in my second year of university, then I was hired as an IT specialist in the networking team. I was working on some outsourcing projects with different technologies like VoIP and RFID. Just before leaving for LACNIC, I was an information security officer based on customer premises.”

At LACNIC, Sofia started as a hostmaster before being encouraged to join LACNIC’s technical team.

She says deciding to do her Masters was a natural step in her career as she sought to build on the research methodology she learned and used at LACNIC.

“I like doing research, and I’ve learned a lot about the subject and myself. I’m not planning on staying in academia; I’m more interested in practical applications in the real world rather than theory.

Although she studies Internet networks, Sofia says her human network has proven to be the most helpful interconnection she has made professionally and encourages other budding engineers to take as much time to invest in developing their professional relationships as they do developing their skills.

“Working at LACNIC I had so much opportunity to connect with people in the community, particularly through our conferences and regional meetings. Even though technology makes connecting with people so easy these days, meeting people face-to-face, who are doing similar work, is different from emails or Skype.

“If you have the opportunity to attend conferences or workshops and to interact with attendees, even though you may not be working directly with them, it’s nice to establish these connections because it is a small world.”

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